My Top 10:
WAYS to Save Money While Vegan
Sometimes when people hear the word vegan, they automatically associate it with the words expensive and inaccessible. And quite frankly, I don’t think they are entirely in the wrong to make those assumptions. When I first went vegan I was quite overwhelmed with the change - and the cost of all of the vegan products I found in grocery stores. Most of the time it seemed like there was a premium on vegan items...and that remains to be true if you are only looking at ready-made, generally processed foods. So, that brings us to this list. In my first year of being vegan I have found these “best practices” extremely helpful while on a budget. Of course, nobody’s perfect - and we all have those days where we simply can’t spend the time to plan ahead, which is totally fine. But for the days when you do want to allocate a few extra minutes of planning into your day, hopefully these tips will be as helpful for you as they have been for me.
1. Plan your groceries
It’s important to keep an eye on your current inventory of groceries in order to understand what you will need when before you decide to order online or head out to the grocery store. One trick that I use is to add items to my grocery list as they are close to being finished, rather than once they are completely done. That way, I can always keep items in stock rather than over-purchase when they are completely done. I also like to restock fresh produce about once every four days or so. Fruits and veggies tend to spoil at a much higher rate than other pantry goods, so we try to keep our revolving stock of plant food as fresh as possible. On that note - if you have access to a farmers’ market in your area, I would definitely recommend checking out for the freshest seasonal ingredients!
2. Meal Preparation
This goes hand-in-hand with planning groceries. Meal preparation has been the biggest money saver for me. For example, I like to cook over the weekends in order to have my meals ready to go throughout the week. I know by doing this I will be sacrificing a little on the freshness, but given my busy schedule - the benefit outweighs the cost. So, when I’m headed out to work in the morning, I grab my food and add any fresh fruits and veggies as needed, and go! This way, I have enough food to keep my stomach from growling all day - and I also have no reason to spend money on a store-bought meal.
3. Plan-Ahead Snacks
This one can be tricky, because if you’re anything like me - you are now eating a lot more than you used to. And if not, maybe you just want snacks in-between your main meals of the day. Whatever the case, I have followed this great tip from fellow blogger and vegan extraordinaire, Sadia Badiei of Pick Up Limes, and it has proven to work wonders. When I’m feeling like I must have another bite to eat, I already have options in the back of my mind for what to make, rather than contemplate what junk food to grab. Mind you, it’s not bad to indulge every now and then - it’s human. This might just be a more guilt-free way of snacking. Pro-tip: including nut butters and natural sweeteners like dates are a great way to satisfy your hunger without a Snickers Bar.
4. Make your own coffee or tea at home
This isn’t even directly a vegan issue. I suggest this to friends and family: make your hot drinks at home before you leave the house / start your day. By doing so you can reduce your waste, save your money, and directly control what goes in your drink. It’s more likely that you’ll put less sugar or sweetener if you know you are in control of it. If you are buying your dessert drink from outside, however, you don’t know how much sugar you’re consuming. And if you must get more coffee or tea from a retailer, they generally incentivize customers who bring reusable thermoses with discounted drink prices.
5. Freeze Your Bananas
Now, this is still my favorite thing to do. Why, you ask? Because having frozen bananas on hand - or any other berries, veggies, or fruits - means that I can have “nice cream” or smoothies shortly after. Nice cream is the non-dairy alternative to ice cream, and it’s main ingredient is frozen banana. Nana...nice...it makes sense. The great thing about making your own nice cream is that you can add fruits, plant-based milk, cacao, matcha, peanut butter...everything but the kitchen sink to personalize a vegan version of your favorite frozen dessert. And if you were never a fan of ice cream and don’t care to try it as a vegan, that’s fine too. Frozen fruits and veggies are a great addition to any smoothie or shake.
6. Store Your Meals Properly
This may seem like common sense - but I never realized the value of a good food storage container until I began preparing my plant-based meals ahead of time. The concept is quite simple: if you invest in adequate storage (I use glasslock containers), your food will stay fresh longer and you will avoid spilling your food while on the go. Because if you have a oatmeal-explosion in your work-bag you’ve lost time preparing the meal, and you’ve also lost money because now your food has gone to waste. So, get the right containers for your food!
7. Grow Your Own Herbs at Home
If you live in a city like me, then you probably know that there is hardly any room for backyards, parking garages, or thinking. (Joking, yes - but sometimes the city can be so crowded it can be difficult to navigate your own thoughts). So, where can you possibly grow your own herbs if you don’t even have any outdoor space? The good news, is that now a lot of home and garden stores offer seeds for countertop herb gardens. Kind of like those weird inverted hydroponic tomato growers...but less presumptuous, overbearing, and complicated. And if you are lucky enough to have any room at all - like on a small balcony for instance - you can easily grow some herbs! Of course, this open area needs to have access to some light, which I’m sure you already knew. Anyhow, if you are able to grow herbs, peppers, or any small variety of fruits or veggies - and maintain them - then you can always use them in your home cooked meals, rather than buy them from a grocery store! Fun fact: Matias and I like to make hot sauce out of the shishito and dragon cayenne we grow in our mini-balcony. We also like to compost our plant food waste into the soil we use for our herb garden - and it works like magic.
8. Stay Hydrated...with Water
Drinking water, another thing that most of us could use a little more of. The old legend must be true though: if you drink more water, you are doing yourself plenty of favors. Not only are you staying hydrated, but you are also helping your food digest and saving money by not buying other sugary, artificially-flavored drinks. In case you were wondering, yes - it was my intention to have this as the *eighth* item on the list.
9. Drink Your Vegetables, They’ll Last Longer
Do you ever feel guilty after finding a giant plastic box of spinach that was barely touched - and when you open it it just smells like a dirty sponge? And then you throw it away? Does this happen to your other vegetables that you buy and leave in the fridge? Have you noticed this process expedited with organic vegetables? Well, if you suffer from this problem - which I had for ages - the best advice I can offer you is to start adding those vegetables to your smoothies. Before they go bad, of course. This way, you can maximize your ability to get all of the nutrients and fiber from the raw vegetables and avoid throwing them out later. So you can save money while being healthy. It’s a win-win.
10. Keep Reusable Grocery Bags
I’m really just telling this piece of advice to myself at this point, because I am always guilty of spending $0.10 (USD) on bags at grocery stores because - of course - I forgot to bring my own tote bag. *Sigh.* Although the price might be insignificant, the impact of bringing your own bags to the grocery means that you are contributing less to plastic bag waste. And hey, you are saving money. And doing good by the planet. I see no wrong with that. So don’t forget to bring your tote bags with you when you’re out buying groceries!
For all of the readers out there - what are some of your best practices when it comes to saving money on a plant-based diet? What tips have you found most helpful and what are you currently struggling with? Let me know your thoughts in the comments section below!